All farmers are superheroes, but meet my superhero, my grandmother Corinne. Grandma Corinne was the oldest of five girls born on the family farm in the small town of Letts, Iowa in 1925. Like many other families, farming was a tradition. It was their way of life, and what they were born to do.
Grandma Corinne was born at the home place that was composed of 80 acres, a house, horse barn, chicken shed, garage, pump house and outhouse. Later a hog house was built where sows had their baby pigs. Her father raised a variety of animals and crops to help support their family.
Everyone had a role in the farming operation, even at a young age. When it was chore time, Grandma Corinne oversaw the chickens. They would raise around 200 laying hens. She would make sure they had feed and water, and also gather the eggs. The family would sell eggs to a grocery store in Muscatine, Iowa to earn extra money. It was important the eggs were clean. Grandma would tell a story of how she would use sand paper to gently clean off any dirt from the egg before taking them to market. After the eggs were clean, they would pack them in large wooden cases that held 30 dozen eggs. The eggs were stored in the basement of the house until it was time to take them to town to sell at the end of the week. Two large cases (60 dozen eggs) were taken to the store each week.
Another task Grandma Corinne had was caring for the large garden. Each spring they would plant a huge garden. Her father Philip would prepare the garden bed with two horses and a plow. Then Grandma Corinne and her mother would plant the seeds. Rows of potatoes, lettuce, radishes, onions, beets, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, and sweet corn would grow on the south side of the house. There was also an orchard with peach, apples, and cherry trees. As the produce grew, Grandma Corinne would be out there with her garden hoe to make sure it was free of weeds. It was a family affair to care for the garden. When it was time to harvest the crop, the family would all go out to the garden with buckets and wagons to gather the produce. They ate a lot of the produce while it was in season, but her mother would can some as well, so they could enjoy it all year long. They stored the potatoes and apples in the basement. By storing them in a dry room with a temperature of 35-40°F , it allowed them to last six to eight months. They had enough produce to last until the next year’s crop.
As time went on and technology developed, farming became a lot easier and more efficient. In 1942 when Grandma Corinne was 17 years old, her father purchased the family’s first tractor, a Farmall H. They used this machine to cultivate, disk, plow, and harrow the corn field. This tractor allowed them to cultivate two rows of corn at a time compared to one row at a time with a team of two horses. Grandma Corinne had her share of driving the tractor! She and her sister took turns cultivating the corn while their dad was making hay. They were farming in a time before herbicides and pesticides. By cultivating the corn they were breaking up the soil between the rows of corn to overturn any weeds that may have started growing. They needed to remove the weeds from the field because the weeds would compete with the crop and result in smaller yields. This was done multiple times in May and June. This video shows what it was like to cultivate the corn in the 1940s.
At that time, they didn’t have big tractor cabs with air conditioning like they do now. Farmers had to be very careful working outside. They would wear long sleeved shirts and pants to protect their skin from burning. Grandma Corinne would wear a large brimmed straw hat she secured to her head with a shoe string. They attached an umbrella by the tractor seat to provide some extra shade while they were working the field as well.
Grandma Corinne started farming in a time with minimal technology. It was a very laborious career, but it was their way of life. Later Corinne went on to marry a farmer. The family tradition of farming continued. They returned to the home place and raised their four kids. Now my uncle Roger farms the same farm my grandmother, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather farmed. This farm has been in our family for 149 years. Next year it will be a Heritage Farm. A Heritage Farm is awarded to a family that has owned at least 40 acres of land for 150 years or more. Do you know a farmer who owns a Century or Heritage Farm? What’s their agricultural story?
Not all superheroes wear capes, some might wear jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and hats. These superheroes call themselves farmers. My superhero is my Grandma Corinne, whose yours? Tag your favorite farmer to let them know they are your superhero!